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YMRA offers final open house this year

Last chance to catch a train Dec. 3 and 4

November 24, 2016
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

For those who may have missed the Youngstown Model Railroad Association's open house, there is one more chance to catch a train.

YMRA, 751 N. Four Mile Run Road, Austintown, will open its doors for the last time this year noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4.

"We are only open to the public three weekends a year," YMRA President Jim Pope, of Berlin Center, said. "It does three things for us. It is a good revenue stream, it helps showcase our work, and it introduces (model) railroading to young kids."

The YMRA has a long-standing history in the area, one that began with eight Mahoning Valley men meeting April 1, 1957, in the home of George Sankey from Tippecanoe Road in Youngstown.

The first layout was a 5-foot-by-10-foot portable layout that was displayed at the Canfield Fair. The first permanent home was in the New York Central passenger station the newly formed club moved into in December 1957. The first open house was held Dec. 2 and 3 of 1961.

In 1963, the NYC station was shut down and the club had to move. The members then moved into the Eagles building in Youngstown, which housed the layout until it was sold in 1977. Not long after is when the former Four Mile Run Christian Church was acquired, first as a lease, and more recently the process began to purchase the structure.

Today the renovated church houses two layouts. In the basement is a large HO scale layout that depicts a lot of the scenes from the Youngstown area. It includes steel mills, train yards and even downtown Youngstown, lit with more than 250 miniature light bulbs.

"We re-lit the city with (light emitting diodes)," Vice President Dean DeMain said. "We'll never have to change a burned out bulb again."

DeMain said the steel mills are still under construction and while they are perfect models of the actual mills of Youngstown, they do represent the type of work that went out here.

"Our mill complex is about 75 percent finished," DeMain said.

The YMRA began with the HO scale back in the 1950s. The O scale was added on the upper floor of the church when the club moved into the church. Today, the HO scale layout features a control tower raised above one of the switch yards as well as an observation post for children on the church stage that features a life side caboose end.

The open house weekends annually are held in November and December, which is the only time the public can walk through, view the layouts and watch the trains run. The rest of the year focuses on work sessions.

As Pope said, one of the reasons for the open house is to inspire young people to get involved in the hobby. For those who want to start or add to a collection, the YMRA also holds a toy train and model railroad flea market, with more than 200 vendors. The event used to be held in Niles but has been moved to the Salem Center Plex, 1098 N. Ellsworth Ave., Salem, where it will be open Jan. 8 and April 9, 2017.

Pope said about 550 people came through the doors to look at the bargains for a hobby that draws young and old, male and female. He said the money raised helps put on the the event that features massive model train displays at the group's clubhouse.

"We have been doing this for 14 years, and there's 185 dealer tables of merchandise and equipment," Pope said.



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